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Meet the 2021 Neimark Awardees

Each year, deserving students receive the Joshua E. Neimark Memorial Travel Assistance Award, named for an MIT researcher who died of a respiratory illness at 30 while doing research at SRI in Palo Alto. Neimark’s sister, AAAS Fellow Edith Neimark, established the award in his memory to help other young scientists.

The Joshua E. Neimark Memorial Travel Assistance Award provides grants to help talented scientists attend the AAAS Annual Meeting. This year the annual meeting was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the 2021 awardees and what they’re planning to achieve next by reading on below!

Michelle Scott, Ohio State University

Michelle Scott
Michelle Scott

Tell us about your research.

My research focuses on understanding how e-cigarettes, which have greatly increased in popularity in recent years, impact oral health and the oral microbiome. We use multispecies oral biofilms to model the complex bacterial interactions in the mouth and analyze the impact of e-cigarettes by using a multi-omics approach. Our goal is to establish indicators of e-cigarette associated dysbiosis in the oral cavity to better inform clinical recommendations.

What did winning the Neimark award mean to you?

Winning the Neimark award provided me with the opportunity to strengthen my presentation skills and engage with a broader audience. AAAS encompasses a diverse range of scientific topics and audiences; the ability to discuss my research with individuals from a wide range of backgrounds has helped me to view my research from new angles. These discussions provided me with a broader context for my research and ideas for new directions.

What is your biggest career hope/dream?

My biggest career hope is to become a faculty researcher in periodontics and continue to investigate oral host microbial homeostasis.

 

Wenjuan Liu, Arizona State University

Wenjuan Liu
Wenjuan Liu

Tell us about your research.

My research developed an agent-based model to examine how mining’s brine pumping behaviors affect groundwater movements and how changes in water resources affect social-stress dynamics under different mining projections. Our simulations highlight the importance of understanding and managing the downside risks of lithium extraction, point out potential pathways to help build community resilience, and identify governance challenges in regulating Li-mining stemming from resource uncertainties. 

What did winning the Neimark award mean to you?

The award gave me full access to the AAAS meeting so I could attend interesting talks and discussions to learn about state-of-the-art knowledge about socio-ecological dynamics research. Most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to lead a discussion session around my research, so I can enhance my skills in presenting and facilitating discussions, especially in the academic conference. I gained thoughtful feedback and suggestions on my research, especially on future directions and built connections to other researchers.

What is your biggest career hope/dream?

I hope to join an international research institute or NGO, such as World Resource Institute or International Energy Agency, to keep exploring socio-ecological impacts (or benefits) related to low-carbon technology and renewable energy development. Working at an international research institute or NGO can give me opportunities to conduct groundwork, engage with diverse stakeholders, and experience the dynamics and complexity of sustainability-related issues.

 

Eron Raines
Eron Raines

Eron Raines, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ

Tell us about your research.

At the ecosystem scale, organisms alter their environment both chemically and physically. I research how ecosystems alter their environment chemically. I have developed isotopic techniques that allow us to establish how rapidly these chemical changes can occur within rock and soil. I find that living organisms can, in some places, chemically affect changes in their environment at rates on par with geologic processes. What this translates to is that biota are affecting global changes in atmospheric chemistry by potentially enhancing the rate at which atmospheric CO2 can be sequestered into long-term geological storage.

What did winning the Neimark award mean to you?

The isotopic techniques I have developed allow a researcher to establish the rate at which soil properties change with time. I was able to share this information in a discussion session that I organized and presented as a result of winning the award.

What is your biggest career hope/dream?

I look forward to having more time and flexibility after my Ph.D.s are completed to explore the role of biota in affecting geologic change.

 

Becky Gumbrewicz, University of Maine

Becky Gumbrewicz
Becky Gumbrewicz

Tell us about your research.

My research aims to bridge gaps in current agricultural knowledge and practices to support the Maine wild blueberry industry and related cropping systems. I seek to gain insight on new ways to improve farm management strategies that combat weed, insect, and disease pressure to improve plant health and productivity. My thesis explores the use of organic mulches of varying particle sizes as a potential management tool to aid in crop protection and pest pressure mitigation in wild blueberry. I hope to develop recommendations for wild blueberry growers facing challenges with soil moisture, nutrient availability, and pest pressures under climate change.

What did winning the Neimark award mean to you?

Winning the award is more than an honor.  It is way to support and encourage young scientists of all backgrounds to pursue our unique curiosities in scientific research. Recognition through this award not only provides an opportunity to share my own scientific ideas and questions, but hopefully serves to encourage my peers to follow their own research pursuits in broadening the scope of their knowledge. I hope that by receiving this award I can inspire my fellow bookworms, inquisitors, innovators, and nature geeks, to take whatever next step is needed on their path toward scientific discovery.

What is your biggest career hope/dream?

My biggest dream is to work in a position that brings good food to the table! I enjoy collaborating with other researchers and farmers to learn more about how to improve our role in today’s agriculture network. With either a research position or partnership with a local organization, I would love to work to encourage my peers toward more sustainable and environmentally friendly food production and eating habits.

 

Dina Ziganshina, Arizona State University

Dina Ziganshina
Dina Ziganshina

Tell us about your research.

My research focuses on abortion determinants in post-Soviet countries with the goal to find out why Russia has the highest abortion rate among these countries. Many Western researchers present Russia’s abortion rate as one of the highest in the world, citing wide legal access to abortion and Russian women using abortion as their preferred method of birth control as the reasons behind that statistic. However, no study compared Russia to all other post-Soviet countries, some of which have very low abortion rates in the presence of similar laws, all of which originate from the same Soviet law on abortion, to find systemic differences among them.

What did winning the Neimark award mean to you?

Winning the award allowed me to present my research in a 30-minute session to a public audience at the AAAS Annual Meeting. This opportunity is incredibly valuable, especially at an early stage in my academic career. The virtual format allowed more people from all over the world to attend my session than a typical in-person meeting would. I received a lot of feedback and questions from different professionals during my virtual session. Feedback is a critical component of professional growth and everyone, including me, has had fewer opportunities to receive it in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

What is your biggest career hope/dream? 

My biggest career dream is to be a leader in reproductive health policy globally. After graduating with my Ph.D. from Arizona State University, I hope to be selected for the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. I am passionate about scientific and evidence-based policymaking, which is the focus of my current and hopefully future work. 

 

Kazune Pax, Ohio State University

Kazune Pax
Kazune Pax

Tell us about your research.

My research focuses on moms, their babies, and the bacteria that grow in their mouths. I have always been curious about small factors that have large and dramatic effects with time. The health within the mouth has important implications for the body at large. We know that the microbiome is intimately tied to health and that its changes are associated with various diseases. I believe the risk for disease is established early and therefore study how mom's habits affect her child's microbiome and overall health. I want to know if mom is passing bacteria to her child and predisposing him/her to a certain outcome or disease. 

What did winning the Neimark award mean to you?

I am thankful to have received the Neimark award. It gave me the opportunity to hold a discussion session and exchange ideas with other researchers to further my project. I'm grateful for the feedback I received and look forward to incorporating their analyses into my project. 

What is your biggest career hope/dream?

My goal is to become a successful clinician-scientist. I want to combine my love of research and dentistry to balance basic research with clinical responsibilities and better my patients' lives.